Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Get Get Get Got Got Got Got

RE: the whole "It's okay to not like things...but don't be a dick about it" conversation, I've found that the latest in shirking-off criticism- notorious amongst music critics especially- is stopping short of "not liking things", but instead saying "I don't get _____".  Just saw a fellow critic tweet that "I don't get Charlie XCX".

 I guess this is a stand-in for saying you don't understand said artist's appeal, but since when has that been the endgame for criticism?  If you're talking about Charlie XCX's music, there's not a whole lot to get.  As pop, it's largely music that's more about surface than depth.  This line of thinking gives power to the percieved audience alone and undermines one's own rationale as a reliable source.  It assumes that there must be some talismanic charm to the music itself that escapes you (and other folks "get") and you wish to be excused from having to examine this in more detail.  In other words, it's a cop out for someone who just doesn't like things.  But it's okay to not like things.  And your job as a music critic is to tell us why.  

Perhaps the worst case of this sense of total dismissal was a piece posted at Vice (big surprise) a while ago wherein the author, who apparently was able to BS his way into an art degree, now admits that he doesn't "get" art (using the unfortunate example of Tracey Emin).
The article. says far more about Emin than "art". To say that brit sensationalist hacks represent "art" in general is small-minded and dismissive. Emin is all immediacy, surface, and no substance (not unlike Vice to be honest), but to shrink this critique to "art is only valuable if you 'get' it" is dangerous in that it raises the potential to denigrate art to exactly what Emin does and nothing more. The problem with Emin for me is that I get it all too well. It just doesn't make me care.

There are definitely valid criticisms of the works, the setting, the intended audience, and the actual audience involved in this exhibit. no doubt. But the article essentially boils down to the inescapable credibility grab (I wrote about Bordieu in art school!) followed by a series of Gawker-ish balks of "Hey look at these dum-dums who actually like this stuff". It's indicative of the type of trolling snark Vice regularly pawns out to people who couldn't be bothered to care about anything, putting me in the uncomfortable position of defending an artist I think the world has already wasted enough ink and thought on.

The Vice piece assigns its author's resentiment to art in general on the basis of a particularly lousy exhibit and thus lets himself off the hook from having to analyze the broader context of what exactly art, and specifically immobile, gallery-commodified art means in 2012. The author makes assumptions about audience rather than engaging with or challenging them.

In a sense, this stance is defensive, presuming that the counter-argument is "you just don't get it", which, sure, is obscurantist and dogmatic.  However, absorbing that critique and just saying "you're right, I don't get it" is a submission to worthless art on its own terms. It validates Emin, et al. to an extent, because it presupposes that something more may be there, but I'm so offended by it lack of plainclothes, speak-to-me-as-a-worthless-plebe dialectic that I just don't care. And furthermore, it suggests, any one who does care is wasting their time. For the Vice hipster, it's more important to be above it than in it. It's more important to not get it and be dick about it than risk the possibility of not liking it and being a dick about it.

BTW, kinda like this song: